d. Where to Stay at Walt Disney World
By Dave Shute
OVERVIEW: WHERE TO STAY AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
(Note: Construction at the Polynesian may make it a bad choice for some; only 5 people can stay in one standard room at the Polynesian, and only 4 at Art of Animation. If your family is too large for a single room, see Large Families at Walt Disney World.)
If neither of these works for you, see Next Best Resort Choices.
STAY AT A WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT
You should stay at an official Walt Disney World resort hotel, as doing so gives you special privileges that your itinerary takes advantage of.
- Most important is the ability to reserve FastPass+ 60 days ahead–everyone staying elsewhere except at the Swan or Dolphin gets only 30 days ahead to book their rides. This helps optimize your trip, and is crucial for a couple of high demand attractions–meeting Anna and Elsa, and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
- Disney hotel guests can book dining for the next ten days once 180 days from their arrival date rolls around–everyone else can just book 180 days ahead. This can be a key to getting high demand meals like dinner at Be Our Guest.
- Disney’s Magical Express will bring you back and forth from the Orlando airport (MCO) for free–which can save hundreds on rental car fees or taxi costs.
- Another is access to the Disney Dining Plan, which may save you some money if you eat where this site’s itineraries suggest you do, and you have kids younger than ten. (See How to Eat.)
CRITERIA FOR PICKING AMONG DISNEY RESORTS
This site selects from among the 25 or so possible Walt Disney World resort hotels based on two criteria:
- Appeal to kids (for obvious reasons) and
- Transportation convenience, because of all the trips you will be making back and forth from your resort to the various parks, attractions and shows.
Kid appeal is principally visual, and it means whether the look of a resort has features that speak to kids of whimsy, playfulness, and adventure, signaling that that this resort was designed for them! (And not necessarily for their parents…)
The resorts with kid appeal are, in order
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- (Near-tie with #1) Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Polynesian Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- (Near tied) Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, and All Star Music Resorts.
None of the other resorts has enduring, whimsical kid appeal. See this for more on kid appeal.
- The first 3 are classified by Walt Disney World as “Deluxe” resorts, and
- The rest are classified by Disney as “Value” resorts
(See this for details on what you get in each resort category.)
Because the price difference between these categories is so high, separate hotels are recommended within each of the two categories. (Other categories exist, but are not recommended for first-time visitors–see Where Not to Stay for why.)
Within the kid-appealing Walt Disney World resorts, the tie breaker is transportation convenience, particularly to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks, as you will be making more trips to these parks than any others.
Of the three kid-appealing deluxe resorts, the Polynesian is far and away the most convenient.
- It is one of only three resorts served by the resort monorail that directly connects to the Magic Kingdom, and the only one of the kid appealing resorts to do so
- Is the only resort within easy walking distance of the Epcot monorail that directly serves Epcot, and
- Is the only resort for which you can take the express monorail back from the Magic Kingdom, walking from where the monorail stops at the Transportation and Ticketing Center back to the hotel–and saving often 10 to 30 minutes.
Among the Walt Disney World value resorts with kid appeal–the All-Star Music, Movies and Sports Resorts, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort–Art of Animation and Pop Century tie as convenience winners, but the choice is not so clear cut.
Collectively, transportation is slightly less convenient at the All-Stars than at Pop Century and at Art of Animation, principally because during slower periods many of the buses at All-Stars serve more than one of these resorts–often all three of the All-Star Resorts.
This bus sharing, when it happens, both slows down and makes more variable the All Star round-trip time to and from the parks, and tends to make the buses and bus stops more crowded than at Pop and Art of Animation, each of which has just one bus stop, not shared with any other resorts.
Total travel times, over your entire vacation, likely would be nearly equivalent, but the time spent in Pop Century and Art of Animation transit seems more productive, more predictable, and less frustrating.
See this for more on convenience.
MORE ON WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD
- For where to stay, see this
- For what you get in each resort price category, see this